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A Day in the Life: In-House Grant Writer

This is the day in the life of a fictional grant writer who works for a $5 million regional nonprofit organization with a mission to expand respite care services for families with mentally ill children.

9:00 a.m. : Come into the office, turn on the computer in your cubicle, and scan your e-mail. The executive director has sent a message asking for the latest stock report for a well-known retail company. He is meeting tomorrow with the company's owner, who has an autistic child and who recently established a small family foundation with a focus on improving services for the mentally ill.

9:15 a.m. : Search the MSN Money website for the monthly closing prices of the retail company's stock. You print a chart of stock prices, an article announcing a recent stock split, and the foundation's proposal submission guidelines posted on the foundation's website. You consult with your boss, the director of development, on what additional information to provide. She suggests that you remind the executive director that he was going to speak with the company's owner not only about a personal gift, but also about approaching the foundation to fund a new project, a website for families needing respite care for mentally ill children. You dash off a quick note to the executive director to accompany the packet you have pulled together.

10:15 a.m. : Start on your main project for the day: a draft proposal to a large foundation describing your organization's biggest, most complex program: a statewide outreach and education initiative for low-income families with mentally ill children. You have a lot of questions about how a new lecture series at local community centers will build upon a number of outreach events the organization sponsored last year, including a poorly attended lecture series at local libraries. You review your notes from a recent meeting with program staff, and call the director of community outreach to discuss how these new lectures will be different from the previous ones and how she hopes to encourage greater attendance.

12:30 p.m. : Run out and grab some lunch from the deli across the street. You bring it back to your desk so that you can continue to work through the proposal draft.

1:30 p.m. : Look up at the clock and see that you have a half-hour to finish preparing for the monthly meeting of the public policy team. You finalize a short presentation on the status of existing foundation funding for a campaign to lobby the state legislature for greater health care coverage for respite care. You add a summary of the history, interests, and submission deadlines for three foundations you and the director of development have identified from prospect research. You stick your head into your boss's office to see if she will be joining the meeting. She is on the phone with the chair of the board discussing the elements of the next fundraising report and presentation to for the next board meeting. You quickly make a note to yourself to provide her with a quick summary of grants that have come in this month.

2:00 p.m. : Join the policy meeting. The director of public policy starts a discussion about whether to partner with a regional mental health center with strong connections to state officials. You remind the team that one of the foundations you have identified as a prospect is also funding the center. You also ask a number of questions about this partnership and how the two organizations would work together to engage officials at the states department of mental health.

3:15 p.m. : Return to your desk and resume drafting the proposal. You complete the section on the lecture series and turn your attention to creating the budget. You recall a conversation in the hallway with the director of administration, who mentioned that rent would be going up next year. You call the director to figure out if you should adjust the percentage added to the program expenses for overhead.

4:30 p.m. : Finish a draft of the budget and e-mail it to the program director and the director of administration for review. The executive director calls to thank you for the stock information and to ask what he should highlight about the new project in his meeting tomorrow. You go over with him the overall structure of the website and remind him that there will be a chat room devoted to parents with autistic children.

5:15 p.m. : Turn your attention back to the draft proposal. People are starting to leave the office, so it's quieting down. You figure if you can plow through another 45 minutes, you can complete the draft.

6:05 p.m. : Look up from a completed draft and see that it is time to go. You quickly look over the draft and see that there are a lot of questions highlighted in yellow. You decide to review it one more time tomorrow before sending it out to program staff for comment. Your boss is still around and you ask if she wants to see the draft before or after program staff have reviewed it. She opts for after the program staff review and asks that you flag for her any remaining program questions that remain unanswered. You turn off the computer.

6:15 p.m. : Just as you are about to head out the door, the executive director calls again. The program officer at another large foundation contacted him. She said that she reviewed our proposal describing the health care coverage campaign and is recommending to the foundation's board an increase in funding by $50,000. The executive director complements you on your work on the proposal, adding that he can now hire a new outreach person to enlist psychiatrists and pediatricians in the campaign. You make a note to write a thank-you to the foundation officer tomorrow. As you close the door, you think about asking your boss to hire a freelance grant writer to help with three proposals due next month.


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